|Canadian Press Photo|
|Benicio Del Toro in “Che”|
Let's hope not.
Nice news hook, perfect timing, even a breezy style. Just one wee problem in the piece by this French philosopher, economist and author. He's gotten his facts rather wrong. Other than that, though, just ducky.
He trashes Che/Fidel and mocks their alliance with the Soviet Union as if they came out of the Cuban hills into Havana ready to install a Soviet puppet state on New Year's Day, 1959. That is not the case, as history/political/Latin American experts know. It was only after the Bay of Pigs and the U.S. embargo the Havana gang fell into waiting Soviet arms. Sorman says literacy rates were better under dictator Fulgencio Batista - wrong - and that racism worsened under Castro. Wrong again. There are many reports by international development agencies on Cuba - I offer merely a taste - but as a journalist who's been covering the nation for more years than I care to remember, I've spent enough time in hospitals, clinics and classrooms and read enough about Batista, to recognize progress.
Lest we forget, Batista was a tyrant linked to the CIA, with secret prisons underground where victims were tortured, including being mauled by tigers. Secret prisons, ring a bell?
But, here's the part in Sorman's article that really gets me:
"Indeed, 50 years after Cuba's revolution, Latin America remains divided. Those nations that rejected Che' mythology and chose the parth of democracy and the free market, such as Brazil, Peru and Chile, are better off than they every were: Equality, freedom and economic progress have advanced in unity."
Now, really. It's easy to install a free market in, say, Chile, when you've got a dictator like Gen. Augusto Pinochet tossing bothersome objectors out of helicopters into the Pacific Ocean. The generals in Brazil, Peru and Chile (not to forget Uruguay or Argentina) ushered in years of brutality - murder, torture and oppression - beginning in the 1960s and '70s, and were responsible for the introduction of the word, disappeared, into the lexicon in Spanish and English. It's verb, noun and adjective.
Cuba is not a democracy and Che/Fidel no saints. Rights groups compile annual reports laying out serious problems under dictator Fidel, and now his brother. Che was far more idiological than the Castro brothers, but, as difficult as he was, he was not in charge after the revolution. He was a hard man (I've interviewed many about him in Cuba) and, as anyone who cares to endure 131 minutes of Che will discover, left soon after the revolution for another not-so-glorious uprising elsewhere.
The island remains a totalitarian state where neighbours spy on neighbours and elections fit within a strict party format. I've filed stories about the less attractive side of this Canadian tourist favorite, as well as about the many good things. But to claim Castro did not make huge advances for the Cuban people, including bringing in universal medicare and education, is simply foolish. The embargo has held Cuba in an iron grip that almost brought it to its knees after the fall of the Soviet Union. Almost.
To hold up Brazil or Peru as paragons of virtue is sick. I've talked to many victims of torture under the dictators in these countries, their children and grandchildren ( many still not reunited with their families) and can't let such claims go unchallenged. Better to know history tham use a false version for personal motives - whether on the right or left. The truth is always more fascinating.
Hate to link you to an ad (even a book ad) but if you want to really know about Che, you can't go wrong with Jon Lee Anderson's masterpiece.